By Anna Cragin
Chances are, you first got the idea of starting your handmade business because you simply enjoyed making things. And you made so many things, and they were so awesome, that family and friends encouraged you to try selling them.
The first rite of passage for a new handmade business owner is usually opening an Etsy shop. Hooray!! Then it was time to sit back and wait for those sales to come in through the (virtual) door. If only it worked that way…!!
If you’re anything like I was when I ran my own handmade jewelry business, you’ve quickly realized that there is more to operating a successful handmade business than simply making things and collecting cash. And one of those things that you keep hearing that you “should” do is make a website for your business.
Now, I’m not going to be one of those people who tell you to simply throw up a website and be done with it. I’m not going to encourage you to do it simply to check that task off your list. Because the truth is, just building a website without any strategy behind it is a waste of time. And wasting time is simply not an option when you’re running a business where you’re the President, Vice President, Secretary, Salesman, Advertising Agency, and oh yeah, the Manufacturer, too.
I’m not going to give you a bullet list of tasks that you’ve probably heard a million times before. Instead, what I’ll do in this article is lay out a solid strategy for your own business website.
This article will be useful to you if you’ve started selling (using Etsy or a similar marketplace) and want to supercharge your growth by being more visible online. Even if you already have your own website, but you’re not seeing more sales and email sign ups, read on to find out how you can really leverage that piece of Internet real estate!!
First things first…Why Should You Have a StandAlone Website?
There are 3 main reasons for why you need some kind of your own presence online:
Etsy and Social Media is Rented Land
You wouldn’t build a house on rented land, so why would you rely on someone else’s platform to build your business on? The sad truth is that Etsy and Facebook are just other businesses. They will change the rules whenever it’s convenient (and more profitable) for them. They can suspend and even close your accounts with them, or impose rules that are not favorable to you.
Case in point: Instagram instituted an algorithm in late March that made posts no longer appear in chronological order, and everyone has gone crazy signing petitions and trying to find workarounds. It’s fine to use social media (and, in fact, you should be using the heck out of it), but it’s meant to be a jumping off point to meet new people, not the complete presence for your brand.
You Can’t Control the Visitor’s Experience
This may seem like something that you don’t care about, but here’s why you should: People like to buy from people, not faceless corporations. And, being a handmade artisan, you’re in a unique position to make your business personal and relatable, simply because you’re the sole person behind it. It’s fine to get people to pay attention to you on Etsy or social media first, but once they are aware of you, and like what you offer, it’s time to take them on a YOU experience using… you guessed it! Your website.
On your website, you can not only control the visual and aesthetic experience of your brand, but you can purposefully navigate visitors through your website so that they interact with your brand and business in a very specific and strategic way. After all, you want them to make the purchase, right? That doesn’t happen by accident.
You Can’t Have Meaningful Engagement with Visitors
Aside from people leaving comments and sending you direct messages, there really isn’t much chance for interaction on a platform like Etsy (or any social media network). These platforms are great for that initial connection, but in order to nurture and sustain that relationship, you need something better.
On your website, you can create the opportunity to get the single most important thing from your visitors: their email address. Once you can email them directly, you open the door to all kinds of meaningful, relationshipbuilding conversations. After all, being in business is all about relationships.
There are some ways that you can get email addresses on platforms like Etsy or social networks, but it requires a lot of active effort on your part (i.e., emailing or asking each person directly) and in some instances that can be prohibited by the Terms of Service of the platform (like it is restricted on Etsy).
The topic of why email addresses are the single most important thing in your business is a topic for another post, but in short, your email list is a list of your customers, plain and simple. So you definitely want to be collecting those whenever you have the opportunity.
Next time….What you should have on your website to make it worth having!
About the Author
Anna Cragin is passionate about helping handmade business owners rock their online
presence. She writes about websites, online stores, social media, email outreach, and how to
juggle all the tasks that are required to run a small business. She’s on a mission to inspire and
educate crafty folks to run amazing businesses, and to that end, she has created this Strategic
Website Game Plan that you can download for FREE